Hamas dismiss HRW's charges of torture, detention

Islamist movement labels Human Rights Watch report as politically biased, denies torture of detainees.

The Hamas members in front of J'lem Red Cross compound 390 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
The Hamas members in front of J'lem Red Cross compound 390
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Hamas on Wednesday dismissed as “politically biased” a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that accused the Islamist movement of torturing detainees.
The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip described the report as “purely political” and claimed it had been written “under the influence of various external parties.” The group also expressed disappointment that the report did not refer to human rights violations under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Hamas also denied that its security forces had been torturing Palestinian detainees.
The 43-page report, published Wednesday, said that Palestinians face serious abuses in the Hamas criminal justice system, including arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture and unfair trials. It also said that since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, it had executed at least three men convicted on the basis of “confessions” apparently obtained by torture.
HRW documented extensive violations by Hamas security services, including arrests without warrants, failure to promptly inform families of detainees’ whereabouts, and subjecting detainees to torture. It also showed violations of detainees’ rights by prosecutors and courts.
Military courts in the Gaza Strip frequently try civilians in violation of international law, HRW found. Prosecutors often deny detainees access to a lawyer and courts have failed to uphold due-process rights in cases of arrests without warrants and abusive interrogations.
“After five years of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, its criminal justice reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “Hamas should stop the kinds of abuses that Egyptians, Syrians and others in the region have risked their lives to bring to an end.”
The report pointed out that Hamas authorities had failed to investigate and prosecute abusive security officials and in practice granted them impunity from prosecution, in particular those in the internal security service.
Witnesses told HRW that the Hamas Internal Security agency, the drug unit of the civil police and other detectives all torture detainees.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights, a nonpartisan Palestinian rights group, reported receiving 147 complaints of torture by various Hamas security agencies in 2011 alone.
The HRW report found that some of the abuse cases were against Palestinians detained on suspicion of collaborating with Israel or the Palestinian Authority.
“There is ample evidence that Hamas security services are torturing people in custody with impunity and denying prisoners their rights,” Stork said.
“The Gaza authorities should stop ignoring the abuse and ensure that the justice system respects Palestinians’ rights.”